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Columbia Missourian

Biochemistry department finds a single home

By BURK KROHE
February 18, 2008 | 8:36 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The MU biochemistry department has been scattered around campus for more than 30 years because it is jointly affiliated with the medical school and the agricultural school. After years of straddling two ends of campus, it has finally found a home in one building.

More than a year after work began, MU officials gathered Monday morning to mark completion of the new biochemistry complex.

The $10 million, 26,000-square-foot addition to Schweitzer Hall has seven new laboratories spread throughout three floors and 19 renovated laboratories. The addition also includes a bridge to the Schlundt Annex.

The complex was funded by MU through a joint effort headed by Gerald Hazelbauer, chair of the MU department of biochemistry; William Crist, dean of the MU School of Medicine; and Thomas Payne, dean of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. It will be used for research purposes, specifically to help support research on life-threatening diseases.

“As we tour this new building, it’s important for us to remember that it was constructed to support researchers focused on improving treatment for patients with diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other major illnesses so common in our population,” Crist said.

The centerpiece of the addition is a facility on the ground level that houses a $2.3-million 800 megahertz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. The instrument, described as a MRI machine for molecules, is one of a few in the country and the only one in Missouri.

Marc Linit, associate dean of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, said he hopes the new instrument will help attract new faculty to the campus.

MU’s department of biochemistry is nationally recognized and has an undergraduate program with about 300 students, making it one of the largest undergraduate programs in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

“The department’s external funding now ranks amongst the top ten biochemistry departments in public universities,” Crist said.

The biochemistry department was started about 35 years ago and has been has been jointly affiliated with medical school and agriculture school since the beginning. The dual affiliation was a great benefit to the program but having two locations on opposite ends of the campus was a problem, Hazelbauer said.

He said having the department under one roof will make the program “even more successful.”